G. Niblock on the L41 TipSUP Noserider. Photo: J. Chandler

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas to Me - New Paddle

Santa brought me a new 6.5" Infinity fiberglass otter tail paddle for Christmas. Santa's a shrewd guy...he's got the same credit card as me!

I ordered the paddle from the Infinity website after making an inquiry through the contact link on the site. I got the man himself (Steve Boehne) answering back and after five or six back and forth emails re blade size, paddle length, price, etc. we sealed the deal and he shipped the paddle to me last Monday. Out the door I paid $320. Steve picked up the tax and the paddle comes with clear plastic paddle edging already installed. I got it Thursday in time for my session yesterday. That's great service!

I think it's a given that just about everything re SUPing is expensive when compared to prone surfing. Boards are more money, and in addition to that, one needs a paddle. Therefore when I decided to try the otter tail I initially inquired about the much less expensive ($165) wood model. But Steve informed me that his supplier was no longer able to get the wood otter tails, and that he only had two left in inventory, a 70" and 75" model. I needed an 82" paddle. So I bit the bullet and ordered the slightly cheaper fiberglass shaft (as compared to carbon fiber), 6.5" blade model recommended for surfing.

One of the primary reasons I wanted this particular paddle is that it is refuted to be a bit easier on the joints. At my age, easier on the joints sounds pretty good. I've developed a mild case of medial epicondylitis aka golfers elbow in my left elbow. This condition is easily treated but can linger, so I thought I'd try preventing further inflammations from occurring by reducing the stress on the tendon at the joint in question. The general wisdom re low surface area paddle blades states that paddlers can stroke at a higher rate of repetition, thus reducing stress injuries. Larger surface area blades make for a slower cadence with reduced ppm's (paddles per minute).But there are other reasons for the paddle purchase too.

The shape of the blade allows the paddler to get a quicker start from a dead stop because there is less resistance in the water. The blade is narrower at the tip and one can adjust the amount of water flowing past the blade by the depth at which the blade is inserted into the water. I immediately noticed the difference yesterday between my Kialoa Kole paddle and the Infinity otter tail. There was so much less resistance with the Infinity that at first I thought I was going to have trouble paddling into a wave. But that didn't prove to be true.

I like the less resistance quick start characteristic of the otter tail. On several waves I had to work hard to drop in because of my positioning, but I don't think I missed anything due to the paddle. Conversely I found that I could work up a pretty good head of steam by digging deep with the paddle blade and widening my grip on the paddle shaft. This gave me the full area of the paddle blade for propulsion and the wider hand placement provided the necessary leverage to power the blade.

The Infinity paddle shaft itself is a bit larger in circumference than the Kialoa and the shape is different. The otter tail shaft is round while the Kialoa shaft is more elliptical. The carbon fiber Kialoa is much more slippery when wet while the fiberglass retained a more "grippy" feel. I don't think I will need to install a paddle shaft grip pad like I did with the Kialoa.

Like always it takes a while to get used to something new and/or different. While I miss the more full bodied response of the wider blade Kialoa, I like the finesse of the otter tail. Whodda thought I'd have a quiver of paddles? But that's what it is. Just like one has different surfboards in their quiver, and various fins in their fin quiver, different paddles respond differently. Longterm I'm thinking the Kialoa would be a good distance paddle. I'm sure I'll switch back and forth just for fun. And that, along with physical fitness, is what it's all about!

Mele kalikimaka Santa.

For more info on this here's a pretty good review of the otter tail paddle. (Click here.)


  1. great report on the infinity paddle. i'd be interested to hear further reports once you get more time on it. i'm not the strongest of paddlers and it seems to me the infinity might work better in my situation than the more usual blade shape. i believe you said your blade is 6.5" at the widest. wow. how did you arrive at that width? on steve's suggestion?
    btw/ i've dealt with steve a good number of times over the years and in my book he is A++ Numero Uno, a class guy who does what he says he's going to do and then does more. i like him a lot.

  2. Hey linter,
    I couldn't agree with you more about Steve. A class act and someone you can trust.

    The 6.5" blade is the one Steve recommends for surfing, and the size I've been researching for several weeks re an alternative paddle. Steve also deals with some joint stress which has been relieved by the paddle talked about here.

    You can be sure that I'll making updates as I learn more along the way.

    Thanks for your comments and I look forward to more in the future.

  3. i dunno about that other review. i think something was being said but i could understand only about five words of it. that said, i am conceptually challenged most of the time.

    re the infinity paddle: other than cost, was there any other reason why you went with fiberglass over carbon?

  4. linter
    The primary reason was cost, although fiberglass over carbon fiber is not a huge cost savings. But secondly, my Kialoa is carbon fiber and I wanted to try the fiberglass, as an additional way (besides blade shape) to compare the two paddles. This all relates back to the "easier on the joints" motivation that is behind this new paddle venture in the first place. The fiberglass shaft is supposed to be more flexible than carbon fiber, therefore I wanted to try the most "joint friendly" paddle that I know of that's on the market.

  5. gotcha. and i for one am glad you saved those fews bucks, because now you can report back on fiberglass vs carbon. which is better 'n' why, from first-hand experience. i'll be waiting patiently ...

  6. linter
    One quick (but probably fairly useless) comment I can make re the fiberglass vs. carbon fiber is that so far I haven't noticed much difference at all. There is a world of difference in the blade shape and size, but the only notable differences so far in the shaft material is that the Infinity fiberglass paddle shaft is thicker. And it feels like the Kialoa (81") is a bit lighter in weight than the Infinity (82").

    Next steps for me are to spend a lot more time with the Infinity paddle in the water and to start more research re SUP paddling technique. There is a new (I think) thread on Stand Up Zone where the folks are talking about technique...I'm going to hone in on that and start practicing different techniques in the water. There's always something fun to do and learn about SUPing.